April 3, 2004 by

Aaron Bank


Categories: Military, Writers/Editors

Retired Army Col. Aaron Bank, “the father of the Green Berets,” died on April 1 of natural causes. He was 101.
The New York native spent his teens working as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. As a young adult, Bank traveled through Europe and learned to speak both French and German. When war became imminent in the late 1930s, he returned to America, joined the Army and volunteered for “special assignments.”
In 1943, Bank signed up with the Office of Strategic Services, a top-secret government agency formed to gather intelligence and organize resistance forces behind enemy lines. He was assigned to recruit and train 170 anti-Nazi German POWs and defectors. Their mission was to parachute into the Austrian Alps and capture high-ranking Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler. Before its completion, however, “Operation Iron Cross” was scrubbed. Bank then parachuted into the jungles of Indochina to search for Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. His team located and freed 165 French internees in Laos.
The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was approved and formally activated in 1952 in Ft. Bragg, N.C. Bank was a key figure in championing for its creation, and became the unit’s first commander. Under his guidance, the elite unit of men became skilled in the art of hand-to-hand combat, stealth tactics, the use of explosives and amphibious warfare. Bank is also credited with writing a memorandum suggesting that Special Forces soldiers be allowed to wear berets as a mark of distinction. Although the Army initially turned down the idea, President John F. Kennedy authorized the apparel in 1962.
Upon his retirement from the service in 1958, Bank became chief of security at a private oceanfront community in California. He published his memoirs, “From Oss to Green Berets: The Birth of Special Forces,” in 1986, and co-authored the novel, “Knights Cross,” with E.M. Nathanson. To celebrate his 100th birthday, President George W. Bush commended Bank for developing unconventional warfare programs and techniques.

10 Responses to Aaron Bank

  1. Ken McKinnon

    From all of us at the Office of Public Affairs in the Deparment of Veterans Affairs, we are so thankful for the life of Col. Aaron Bank. It is soldiers such as he who have ensured our free and prosperous status. God bless and keep him.

  2. seymour vladimer

    the airborne special forces museum in fayetville n.c. stands as an eternal monument to this great man and stalwart sodier
    in dec. i asked,at the museum ,about his health and was advised that he was ailing. yet his passing came as a shock as i thought of COL. BANK as a rock that would always be there
    this country,this world and all veterans have lost a true friend and patriot

  3. Wally Benson

    I only meet the Col. once but after 30 years with Special Forces the many great troopers I have meet, he stands above most. I know that when I pass on to the other side, I’ll be with him.

  4. airborne fan

    I just read his obit, a few months late. but what an impressive man. I feel sad at his passing, but it appears he lived a full life, and a left behind a helluva legacy. Airborne must be proud.

  5. Fred Thomson

    I served under Colonel Bank when he was commanding officer of Region IV 970th CIC Gp (later the 7970th CIC Gp) in Munich. I remember his dedication to physical fitness and tight leadership.

  6. Raymond lee

    Met The Colonel a couple of times at FT Bragg and FT Campbell. He was a “MAN AMONGST BOYS” in my books. His stature was not what would be expected in his later years but his command for respect was unparalleled, this is in my eyes the greatest person I ever had the chance to meet that changed history and warfare as we see it today. RIP “COLONEL” YOU DESERVE IT

  7. jessica

    i met aaron banks daughter, Linda Bank she is actually my english teacher and she always talks about her father and i wish i could have met aaron bank. she has especially been talking about her dad scince we are about to read the diary of anne frank.

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